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If anyone is tougher than LSU's Orgeron, it’s his wife!

by J.W. Miller on 07/30/18

Regular readers know that I’m not a big LSU fan, but I am a fan of their head football coach, Ed Orgeron. He strikes me as a no-nonsense son of the bayou who growls what he thinks and has earned the respect and even love of his players. A recent bit of news that makes me think even more highly of him is that he keeps his demons locked away, at least until an enterprising reporter discovers them. I learned that after I read about the trials and tribulations that Orgeron and his wife Kelly have suffered in the past year as outlined in a terrific story by Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated

Kelly has suffered since childhood from severe scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. The story sucked me in because scoliosis runs in my wife’s family. The Lovely Miss Jean and her three sisters have scoliosis to varying degrees, and, since it is a hereditary affliction, my children also have it. Generally, it can be controlled by exercise, physical therapy or with chiropractic techniques, but of the seven million people in the United States who have scoliosis, many suffer greatly. Like Kelly Orgeron. 

In May, 2017, three months before the start of Ed Orgeron’s first full season as LSU’s football coach, a team of neurosurgeons conducted two 10-hour surgeries in a three-day span on Kelly to insert supporting rods and screws into her lumbar spine and hips. But during the first procedure, a surgeon nicked her colon. The accident was not discovered for several days when Kelly’s stomach grew so swollen that she was rushed to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. Emergency surgery was scheduled, but her blood pressure had fallen to 69 over 37 and her  condition was critical. 

The attending physician told Orgeron that his wife might not make it through surgery. But Kelly was half-awake and heard the warning. She raised her forefinger and wagged it back and forth at her husband as if to say “Don’t listen to him. I’ll be back!” 

Medical staff uncovered the accidental slit in her large intestine and rushed her into surgery, fearing Kelly was developing sepsis, the body’s deadly response to an infection. She emerged more than four hours later after doctors performed a colostomy, forcing the waste from her intestines to empty into a bag through a hole created in her abdomen. Two days after her final surgery, her husband rushed to the Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, but Kelly’s presumed three-day stay in the hospital turned into 21. On July 27, her husband turned 56 years old, and his wife had a successful reverse colostomy, the inadvertent puncture wound in her large intestine having healed. 

Kelly Orgeron is scheduled for one more surgery with regards to her scoliosis, a neck operation to fuse the cervical portion of her spine to a metal rod inserted more than 35 years ago. As a teenager, Kelly did not let her problems impede her own athletic ability, shooting baskets while wearing a full-torso body cast that treated her spinal curvature by rigid immobilization. A wide belt wrapped around the waist, connected by metal rods in the back and front to a chin rest that encircled and supported the head. Kelly wore the brace 22 hours a day for three years until surgeons inserted a rod into her back at age 15. 

Today, with 15 surgical scars in her back, Kelly can’t bend down to tie her shoes because attached to her spine are three metal rods, a dozen screws and two hooks. Often in the morning, before her spouse leaves for the LSU football office, he ties her shoes. 

LSU players report to campus Friday with the first fall practice scheduled the following day. It doesn’t matter if you care about that or not. But how can you not pull for Ed and Kelly Orgeron?

Comments (1)

1. Houston said on 7/30/18 - 09:03PM
Great article and well written. Thanks. I am pulling for Ed and Kelly.

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